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I for one, do not really believe in any of the MS certification programs, because I don't believe they help identify someone who's competent vs. someone who isn't. It just shows who's good at taking tests. If the certification were conducted more like Novell's certification, where you take a series of classes where they actually teach you something, that would be more meaningful. However, after all the pressure we put on MS to offer a VFP exam, I think it's important for us to show that we meant it by taking the exam. (But I won't.)

-- Barbara Peisch

Barbara, these are valid points you make. MS is changing the rules on how exams are written to reflect real-world skills versus the ability to memorize study guides or manuals. I'm hoping that the MCSD designation starts to mean something.

By the way, here's food for thought: Wonder how the VB crowd will do? I do. There are a lot more beginners in VB. -- John Koziol
Yes, there's a much larger percentage of VB programmers who are beginners. I would hope that this doesn't cause MS to dumb-down the test so more of them pass. Otherwise, it just adds fuel to my argument. -- Barbara Peisch

There are two programmers, equal in all respects (past experience, formal education, etc...) but one has an MCP in VFP. Any employer with a job opportunity programming in VFP would probably look to the MCP before the other programmer. -- Dave Noal

Maybe, but I think the real reason that happens is the the employer doesn't really know about the area he is hiring for. I do quite well when talking to line managers. OTOH, talking with HR is almost always a waste of time. Why the difference? The line managers can ask nasty questions and I can answer them. HR mainly just looks at the resume for keywords.
It shows more than just being good at taking tests. At a minimum, it shows that you care enough about your profession to study for the test. To some, it will even show pride, commitment, and dedication. In addition, there are some who will use it to identify someone who's competent. Given the minimal costs ( as Ted points out in Certification Downsides), I can not imagine why anyone would shy away from it. Even if you do not pass, you will learn what your deficiencies are, which is the first step towards improvement. Also, as discussed in the Certification Downsides, taking the test will cast a vote in favor of VFP.

Barbara, you are obviously dedicated and proud of your profession, as shown by your posts. May I ask why you think it is important to take the exam, but won't anyway? You wouldn't have to tell anyone if you pass < s>. -- Carl Karsten
My husband has recently received his RedHat Linux certification. In addition to a written exam you have to troubleshoot "broken" systems and install and configure from scratch. He says all of that demonstrates real-life competence, and not just book-learning. He thinks very little of exams which are written only. Still, any exam or certification is better than none. -- Cindy Winegarden
I am required by my job to acquire certifications in order to teach classes. So if I need to teach a VB or SQL Server course, I have to pass the appropriate exam. So far I've taken the SQL Server 7 tests, and they were not easy, requiring knowledge of the real-world usage of the product. Did it require extensive knowledge to pass? No. But it tests enough of the right stuff to show whether you are proficient in the product being tested. There's the untested quantity of experience, ability to apply what you've learned, etc. These tests can't test those issues, and I don't think you can test for it, either.

Have the tests always been this way? No! I'm sure lots of you took the VFP 3 exam, which had its share of problems. MSFT has very purposefully taken the certification process to the next level, making sure that you can't pass their tests just by reading a book or by being a good test-taker. Based on what I've seen of the SQL Server tests (and on my input to the VFP exams), it's becoming increasingly more difficult to pass a MSFT cert exam by just reading a study guide. You have to have used the product and solved some real-world problems with it.-- Chuck Urwiler

Your comments are very encouraging, Chuck. I remember the VFP3 exam put a lot of emphasis on specific areas that MS considered important at the expense of a lot of skills I would consider more important. Because of that, I don't think certification meant much for a VFP developer. I think it's great what they did at Devcon--going to the community for questions. I'm still somewhat concerned that those questions will be filtered according to the skills MS wants you to have vs the ones that you really need in the real world. But I guess that remains to be seen. -- Barbara Peisch
Having taken and passed the 70-100 beta with only medium preparation (I had a hard time finding relevant material), I can see Barbara's point about testing a person's test taking ability rather than their knowledge of subject. But this same argument can be (and often is) used to criticize HS and college grading systems.

Ok, so I didn't put much preparation into the test, but passed anyway. Does this mean I have the skill in the tested area, or just in taking tests? The answer is, you can't know unless you know more about me than the results of (any?) tests can provide.

The reason I see the tests as beneficial however, and why I intend to take both VFP tests (as soon as I knock out the SQL Server test - gulp!), is that they provide people like me (without a degree relevant to programming or computers), quasi-legitimate documentation that shows we can do a job with some degree of proficiency.

Anyone who thinks this is unnecessary should look at all the want ads that say, "BS in Related field or equivalent experience" to see what I mean. At least certification can get one's foot in the door with a potential employer, or potential customer - whether you get anywhere after that is going to be based on performance. IMHO, knowledge of subject is the only thing that suffices for doing a good job.

A piece of paper can't help me determine requirements, but it can show others that maybe I am capable of doing so. They will judge whether I can or not by my actions anyway. No one in the know is going to care what the paper says if I demonstrate incompetence on the project.

In short, any certification test by itself is no more a measure of competency than a degree by itself, and anyone who uses either piece of paper as their sole measuring stick of ability is probably off the mark, since you can always "learn for the test" instead of truly mastering the subject.

In the end, I think, our skills and abilities can best be demonstrated by doing, but getting the opportunity to "do" is the tricky part. These tests offer a cost effective way out of that Catch-22 - At least I think so, but then again, I haven't used them to get a job yet so what do I know :) -- Bill Caputo
Category Microsoft Certification
( Topic last updated: 2000.04.20 12:14:31 PM )